Chicago and L.A. Attacks Diverted

Washington Times

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.

Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization’s plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.

Mohammed told interrogators that he and Ramzi Yousuf, his nephew who was behind an earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, had leafed through almanacs of American skyscrapers when planning the first operation.

“We were looking for symbols of economic might,” he told his captors.
He specifically mentioned as potential targets the Library Tower in Los Angeles, which was “blown up” in the film “Independence Day,” and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Interesting. This would seem to be yet more evidence that Clarke’s charges about the Bush Administration’s fixation on Iraq in the aftermath of 9/11 seriously hampered our efforts against al Qaeda are wrong. Our normal bureaucratic process–which diverted several attacks during the Clinton era as well–continued to work.

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    I still take Mohammed’s statements with a grain (pillar?) of salt. You can’t completely discount the possibility that he’s just telling his interrogators what they want to hear.

  2. Steven says:

    Clearly we need to ban almanacs.

  3. Bill K says:

    What does Clarke have to do with this at all?

    The comment is:

    “Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization’s plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.”

    Did Clarke say anything was wrong with attack Afghanistan? I don’t believe he did, and said attack could have been exactly what Mohammed is referring to.

    That being said, as Clarke has noted, while we diverted our military might towards Iraq, and away from Afghanistan, the Al-Qaeda organization was able to grow into one not dependent on its leader Bin Laden.

    You can argue if invading Iraq was right or wrong, but this most recent statement by Mohammed doesn’t combat anything Clarke has said, unless you are looking through republican colored glasses.

  4. simpleton says:

    Wasn’t Clarke basically running the show at this point? Ordering planes grounded and ‘shaking the trees’? Didn’t Cheney put his hand on Clarke’s shoulder and ask if he had all the resources he needed?

    Chalk up a victory for Clarke.

  5. James Joyner says:

    I dunno. If Clarke was in charge that day, why wasn’t he in charge on 9/11?

  6. Paul says:

    OK Simpleton fess up — Are you Clarke’s mommie?

  7. simpleton says:

    Well, after the White House shit a load bricks and realized that they had been caught napping, they figured they had better start listening to people who know what’s going on.

    Why was George Tenet running around like his “hair was on fire”?
    Why were Bush and Rice talking about Macedonia?
    Why was the White House holding a ‘strategy’ meeting to figure out how to get more phone lines to Crawford, Texas?
    Why was Clarke “out of the loop”?

    And yes, why wasn’t Clarke in charge?

  8. dondo says:

    Presuming it’s true, this article bolsters rather than contradicts Clarke’s story. He said that the Bush administration payed no attention to terrorism (other than state sponsored terrorism) prior to 9/11. He said that the 9/11 attacks might have been prevented if the adminstration had bothered to try.

    After 9/11 there was considerable response that did not have to do with Iraq. There’s no evidence offered and no reason to believe that the Iraq war had anything to do with “disrupting the terrorist organization’s plans.” Remember, there IS NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER of a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda prior to the war.

    So 9/11 comes around, the administration starts paying attention to terrorism, and they prevent another attack.

    They also went to war in Iraq, but that’s unrelated.

  9. Clarke hasn’t said that heeding his advice would have averted 9/11 so much as implied it strongly. He was finally asked, point-blank, by one of the commission members if implementing every single one of his suggestions would have prevented 9/11. His answer was “no,” but it didn’t get much press.

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  11. BoiFromTroy says:

    L.A.’s counterterrorism trickery
    Los Angeles and Chicago were reportedly targets for the terrorists after 9-11. Locally, Al Qaeda had its eyes on the tallest building West of the Mississippi, downtown Los Angeles’ Library Tower. Situated across the street from the Richard J. Riordan…